Google refocuses Dart as a JavaScript helper

Google no longer plans to embed a Dart virtual machine within its Chrome browser

Backing down on ambitions to create a commercial grade Web programming language, Google is shifting work on its Dart programming language to make it an optimization aid for the pervasively popular JavaScript, which Dart was originally designed to supplant.

The company no longer plans to incorporate Dart into its Chrome browser, the two creators behind Dart announced in a blog item posted Wednesday. Going forward, Dart will be most useful for developers as a tool to create better JavaScript code.

Google launched Dart in 2011 to address limitations around JavaScript, which was being used to build complex Web applications even though it was created chiefly to provide simple scripting capabilities to Web pages.

Initially, Dart's developers focused on building a virtual machine that would run Dart code inside Chrome and other browsers, which would have allowed developers to write Web applications in Dart. No other browser makers made any significant moves to adopt Dart, and so the decision to not include it in Chrome pretty much seals its fate as a stand-alone programming language for the Web.

Google worked hard to lure developers away from JavaScript to Dart, perhaps with only limited success. In the years since Dart's release, a number of other tools have appeared designed to bring greater rigor to JavaScript programming without requiring developers to learn a new language.

Microsoft released TypeScript, a superset of JavaScript that added static typing, classes and modularization and other capabilities typically found in more heavy-duty languages such as C++ and Java. Other engineers at Google developed AngularJS, a framework for applying more traditional programming methodologies to JavaScript-based user interfaces.

The Dart developers themselves created a tool that converts Dart code into JavaScript, so it can be used by all browsers. This is where the work on Dart will continue. At the Association for Computing Machinery's Applicative conference last month, Dart developer Dan Grove said one of the chief goals for the Dart project will be to "make it easier for JavaScript applications to suck in components written in Dart."

Dart remains fairly widely used within Google itself. The Google Ads business unit is one of the largest users of Dart, according to the company. It is also used for Google Fiber and the Google Express online store and for the internal business applications used by the Google sales team.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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